Some ad:tech experts say the No. 1 mistake internet marketers make is failure to research their target audiences.

When creating sites that will convert, marketers at ad:tech SF 2011 seem to struggle with appealing to their audiences. Joseph Carrabis, neuromarketer-in-residence at Critical Mass, talked about making sites more audience-friendly – from textual and visual content to the placement of calls to action.

Carrabis told me his clients' No. 1 problem – and the leading problem he identifies when searching the web – is that marketers “don’t know their audience.” The first step to any successful online marketing approach, he suggests, is to understand the simple preferences and informational needs of your audience.

He points to a minivan site, where soccer moms are the target audience. The site has a black background, and it uses rhetoric emphasizing that the car is innovative. A better solution, he explains, would have been to pick a more audience-appropriate color palette and to talk safety features. He also emphasizes this particular site's failure to place a call to action in the upper right corner, which he says is the ideal spot for ecommerce directives.

Attendees offer their websites for review throughout the session, and a consistent issue with the sites examined is that their content fails to appeal to what their audiences will want to read. Carrabis identifies “language” as one of the most important factors in conversion that marketers must get right.

Ad:tech attendees are not alone in their struggle to create relevant content. Brafton has reported that generating useful, original content is cited as a top challenge by internet marketers – and outsourcing to journalists is a solution B2B marketers are already adopting.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.